June 24, 2018
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UMS trustees OK budget, tuition hike

By Julia Bayly, BDN Staff

FORT KENT, Maine — Facing reduced state appropriations and drops in enrollment, the University of Maine System board of trustees on Monday afternoon approved an average tuition increase of 4.8 percent across the system’s seven campuses.

Annual tuition and mandatory fees for in-state students range from $10,142 at the University of Maine in Orono to $7,110 at the University of Maine at Machias.

It was noted at the meeting that UMaine has the lowest in-state tuition of all the land grant universities in New England.

“We are trying to stay in touch with what Maine families can afford,” Rebecca Wyke, system vice chancellor for finance and administration, said Monday.

UMS Chancellor Richard Pattenaude said the increase for full-time undergraduate students who are Maine residents is the lowest in six years and comes on the heels of a particularly tough budgetary cycle.

“The current budget represents a lot of hard work on the campus and system levels,” Pattenaude said.

The percentage increases for each campus are UM Orono, 5.5 percent; UM Augusta, 4 percent; UM Farmington, 4.1 percent; UM Fort Kent, UM Machias and UM Presque Isle, 5 percent; and University of Southern Maine, 4.8 percent.

Trustees approved a total unrestricted operating budget for fiscal year 2011 of $517.9 million, a 2.4 percent increase over the anticipated final fiscal year 2010 budget of $506.2 million.

Each of the seven campuses submitted balanced budgets for the coming year despite the drop in state revenues.

“Appropriations from the state are down $6.9 million from 2008,” Wyke said. “There is the potential for further reductions.”

In addition, system campuses in Fort Kent, Presque Isle and Machias would not have achieved a balanced budget figure, Wyke said, without the inclusion of federal stimulus dollars, funding that ends in a year.

“Federal stimulus dollars have been cushioning the loss of state appropriations since FY ’09,” Wyke said. “However these funds disappear after FY ’11, and it is unlikely that state revenues will rebound sufficiently to make up the difference.”

In 2010 the Legislature approved $172.9 million for the University of Maine System.

Systemwide, $6.4 million in federal stimulus funds were received, with UMFK, UMM and UMPI using $156,000, $159,000 and $234,000 of those funds respectively to balance their budgets.

“Each of these campuses worked hard [and] each has a good budget plan,” Wyke said. “But we are worried if they can implement long-term plans before the stimulus funds are lost.”

At UMFK, outgoing president Richard Cost is confident future budgets can survive the loss of federal dollars.

“The stimulus funds bought us a year,” Cost said. “Now natural attrition has time to take effect, and we have a plan for a balanced budget for the foreseeable future.”

Those three smaller campuses, Wyke said, did “an amazing job” achieving balanced budget status.

“At the beginning of the fiscal year they were not looking at a balanced budget,” she said. “Now they are in balance and we have faith they can continue to do that, but can they do it within the next couple of years?”

Factors driving the budget, Wyke said, include the state appropriations, student charges, enrollment and employee compensation and benefits.

“We need to continue to reduce expenses and ‘right-size’ the system,” Pattenaude said. “We need to use our resources as wisely as possible.”

The last thing trustees want to do, Pattenaude said, is reduce academic options for students.

At the same time, he added, underenrolled programs are coming under scrutiny.

“With every decision we make we are asking ourselves, ‘What is the meaning for students?’” he said. “As we go through the [budget] process we will be as open and transparent as possible.”

In an effort to get a handle on enrollment trends and how the system can best meet the changing needs of future students, it has undertaken the first comprehensive tuition, financial aid and marketing study.

Phase one of that study was unveiled Monday at the meeting.

“It is very clear demographics are destiny,” Rosa Redonnett, system executive director for student affairs, said. “We realize in Maine the traditional student age population is declining and we want to take a hard look at what that means for the system.”

The board held committee meetings Sunday and Monday morning, and met as the entire board Monday afternoon.

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